What Is More Important for a Business Leader: Getting Results or Demonstrating the Right Leadership Behaviors?
We often see a dynamic in companies where some business leaders are achieving results yet are not demonstrating leadership behavior that you would want to have in your company. Senior leaders are happy with the numbers but also instinctively feel concern for the long-term company health. This dynamic leads to the fundamental question about which is more important, and the answer can be quite complicated. Ideally, you have managers who get results by utilizing the leadership behaviors you want within your company culture.
When that’s not the case, then senior leaders have a choice to make, and to choose results without consideration for the negative impact that toxic behaviors are having on the long-term health of your company is just bad leadership.
Let’s dig in to understand this common question’s subtleties and consider the various forces at work.
Define Expected Results and Behaviors
Before you can begin the debate about results versus behaviors, you have to be clear about what is expected within each category. At the highest level, there are a few basic things to consider.
For results, consider:
- Are you hitting the budget?
- Are you hitting your targets?
- Is the CFO (or CEO, COO, etc) pleased, or are you having to answer deeper questions?
- Are customers (or shareholders / other key people) happy, or are they complaining?
- Is there room for the numbers to improve?
For behaviors, consider:
- Are you acting in a way that is consistent with the culture we want to have?
- Are you exhibiting conduct that is consistent with our core values?
- Are other leaders turned off by your behavior?
- Are employees complaining about you?
Once you have a sense of these fundamental questions, you can dig deeper into both results and behaviors.
The Balance Between Results and Behaviors
Our view is that today’s behaviors create tomorrow’s results, so it’s critical to make sure you form the habit of proper behaviors right away. Results and behaviors must be interwoven, or else you risk bigger issues that could plague you for the long term.
Consider that toxic behaviors are like smoking cigarettes. Pretend your desired results are to maintain a low weight and body fat percent (stay thin), and you know that stopping for a smoke break prevents you from eating a snack – in the long term you risk lung cancer and other health issues. The better behavior would be to eliminate the smoking and to replace that habit with proper eating and exercise. Sure, there is some effort required – but you will thrive in the end!
Look for the Root Cause of Gaps
The process to dig into gaps in results is pretty well known across businesses. Hold regular progress reviews, check results versus targets, confirm you’re following the action plans according to the timing you committed to, and launch data-based problem-solving exercises to figure out where things went wrong and what to do to get back on track.
When behavior expectations are not met, there are a couple of likely root causes to check. It could be that your leader is not clear about what is expected. Or, even if they know what is expected, they are not held accountable to do what is expected. The good news is that both of these behavior root causes can easily be fixed with The Simple Expectations Script.
The Simple Expectations Script
As you work with and coach your leaders, use The Simple Expectations Script. It enables you, as the senior leader, to eliminate any ambiguity as you give feedback to managers how they are delivering against your leadership expectations.
- “Here’s what I expect: <describe>”
- “Here’s how you’re doing versus my expectations: <describe>”
- “I’m happy,” or, “I’m not happy.”
- “Let’s agree to next steps <Discuss>”
The first two statements give you the opportunity to compare your observations to your expectations. Simply by stating these together provides clarity and sets up the rest of the conversation.
Statement three provides a simple calibration – a thumbs up or a thumbs down. By the way, this script is useful for giving feedback when expectations are met and results are positive as much as when expectations are not met or results are negative.
Statement four opens up a dialogue and is meant to be a discussion. To the extent that your leader is aligned with your leadership expectations after statements one, two, and three, you can expect your leader to offer ideas about what steps to take. You can then get clarity for the timing of the steps and then track to make sure they are done on time.
Put The Simple Expectations Script into action and make it part of your leadership development programs.
When senior company leaders are proactive about designing a culture that they want, leadership behaviors become a priority across the company. In the absence of recognizing how your culture can deliver long-term success, some companies will narrowly focus on the results only.
What we are noticing is that in some fast paced, crazy corporate environments, where leaders have taken on more and more responsibility and are stretched thin, results seem to win every time and behaviors don’t matter because people are just trying to survive. It is like a pendulum that is swinging off-center, and will only swing back once the toxic behaviors are creating obvious damage, such as critical employees choosing to leave your company.
Don’t wait for a cataclysmic event, like the equivalent of you getting diagnosed with lung cancer, to cause you to pay attention to toxic behaviors in your company. It may be too late!
About the Author: Pete Winiarski
Peter D. Winiarski is the founder and CEO of Win Enterprises, LLC. He is a speaker and the author or contributing author of seven Amazon best-selling books on business transformation, consulting, leadership, and goal achievement.
His company, Win Enterprises, LLC, helps business leaders transform their results for themselves and their companies. The Win team of resources are experts in business transformation, organizational culture, leadership, and goal achievement, and are highly skilled consultants and executive mentors.
Win’s clients experience fast results, lasting change, and huge ROI working with Pete’s team.